Chicago River site’s sale to help pay for police, fire training campus
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The $95 million public safety training campus in West Garfield Park that will replace Chicago’s police and fire training academies will be bankrolled in part by proceeds from the sale of a valuable fleet facility site near the Chicago River on the North Side, city officials say.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is fleshing out financing for the long-awaited West Side project after entering into a letter of intent to buy the 30.4-acre site at 4301 W. Chicago Ave.
Developer Sterling Bay agreed earlier this year to pay the city $104.7 million — $133.53 per square foot — for the lucrative site near the Chicago River, where city vehicles now are maintained. The deal also requires Sterling Bay to build a new city maintenance facility in Englewood.
Now, city officials say the mayor is planning to use “at least $20 million” from the North Side sale to buy land for the new public safety training campus and “get work started.”
The remaining $75 million to build it is to come from “the sale of other surplus property,” officials say — including the antiquated police and fire academies the new campus will replace.
Emanuel’s 2017 budget already assumes the use of proceeds from the sale of the West Town fleet site to finance a previously shelved, $31 million overhaul of Chicago’s 311 non-emergency system.
The mayor’s ballyhooed but slow-starting “Infrastructure Trust” will choose a developer to design, build and finance the new training facility.
City Hall also released the first architectural renderings of the new training facility, which is expected to provide an economic boost to impoverished West Garfield Park. The campus is meant to improve training, which the Justice Department found lacking in its examination of the Chicago Police Department in the wake of the Laquan McDonald police-shooting video’s release.
The main building will include classrooms, labs, simulators, conference rooms, an auditorium and offices. The second building will include a dive-training pool, a shooting range and space for “active-scenario” simulations ranging from buildings to L trains.
The outdoor portion of the campus will feature a driving course, a skid pad and space for “hands-on practice in real-world situations.”
The campus will replace the 41-year-old police academy at 1300 W. Jackson, the 67-year-old fire academy at 1010 S. Clinton and the south fire academy at 1338 S. Clinton, developed 52 years ago.
In a written statement detailing a project first disclosed by the Chicago Sun-Times, Emanuel said police officers, firefighters and paramedics “need the best tools, technology and training.
“This is not only a significant investment in the West Garfield Park and Englewood neighborhoods, it is proof of our continuing commitment to expand city services to more communities,” Emanuel said.
As the mayor seeks to rebuild trust with black voters shattered by his handling of the McDonald shooting video, he has been systematically relocating city buildings to the South Side and West Side. Beside the fleet and training facilities, it includes the City Colleges’ newly announced plans to sell its downtown headquarters and move many of its employees to Kennedy-King College in Englewood.
Emanuel is aiming to shore up support from African-American voters who helped elect him in 2011 and then re-elected him even after he closed a record 50 public schools.
Ald. Emma Mitts (37th), whose gang-infested West Side ward will be home to the training campus, said she is “thrilled” with a project she said will “drive economic and community development, boost public safety and contribute to a safer ward and safer city for our families.”